Playing with Dyes (CMYK) – Preview

I’m studying using Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black to make dye colors. Think CMYK color printing percentages.

Some of my samples as I work on particular colorways. The oranges and blue were from a different colorway.

If you’re not familiar with CMYK its from modern color theory (using cyan, magenta, yellow and black – instead of red, green and yellow) and I’ll get into that more in a later post. 

Using this color below for an example: (info from  It has 0% cyan, 71% magenta, 100% yellow and 12% black. Not totaling the percentages for the color, but how much of each color you’d use out of a possible 100%. Say 1 teaspoon dye stock is 100%. Then for this color 71% would be about ¾ of a teaspoon of dye stock.

Some of the obstacles I’m finding to creating my colors are:

  • Some colors are “stronger” than others in dye brands. Take yellow for instance with the dyes I have (a mix of Jaquard and Dharma acid dyes): magenta is ~2 times as strong as it is and cyan is ~3-4 times as strong. So I have to adjust recipes. This is giving me successes with purples, oranges and greens. (Above you can tell I was working on greens for a color way.)
  • Figuring out how to measure very small amounts of dye stock so I don’t waste it. (I found some very cool measuring spoons with a drop, dash, smidgen, etc. Who knew these were real measurements? I had to measure them against a teaspoon because I’d seen differing opinions on the measurements of the really small ones.) Helpful for reproducibility. 
  • Figuring out how to quickly adjust the color of a sample mix. Having 5-6 samples to tinker with at a time and a paper to note what you added each time is helpful.
  • Color conversion is very much an art and not an exact science. Photoshop and say have different “recipes” for CMYK. I think this has to do with “color spaces” (adobe rgb, vs srgb, etc.) which are a heavy graphics topic. Not sure how much I want to dive into graphics terminology when I’d rather be playing with dyes.
  • Some dye heating methods may change the over all dye effect. (I’ve read that some fast heating methods like the microwave may not let some dyes attach as well and I may need to heat longer or try steaming or putting my samples in a crockpot. Which makes me sad – because I liked the quick fix of seeing the color in a few minutes.)
  • Some colors bond more quickly to the wool. So when playing with more than 2 dyes at a time I don’t always get the colors I want. Browns are really a challenge and may require a 2 step dye process. (I’ll report back when I figure out what works and what doesn’t. So far mixing all 4 dyes colors makes a yucky colored mess, not a pretty chocolate brown.)
So there’s your preview.  I’ll have more pictures, details, and hopefully more success with browns next time I report in.
I’ve only seen two other bloggers attempting this but not in as much detail as I’m trying. Have you played with using CMYK for mixing your colors? If so, would you care to care to share your results?

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